Our son lives in Hawaii, so the family decided to gather there in paradise for Christmas. We planned everyone's travels to arrive on the same day; after a cancelled flight for us and 3 (count 'em, 3) overnight flights, we arrived happy and tired. Met all the kids and John bought us leis:
We got to stay at the amazing Hale Koa Hotel (since our son is in the military) right on Waikiki. This is the view:
Christmas lights, sunbathing, and tropical drinks at sunset:
We spent time on Waikiki and in Kailua, where John lives. Climbed up to some pillboxes and to the top of CocoHead Volcano.
View over Kailua:
And Coco Head:
Can't you just see the Geology??
The bay in the background is Hanauma Bay, a State Park set aside for snorkeling. This is the place I learned to snorkel back in 1999, and we love to go there on every Hawaii trip - this time we did it on our last day.
We flew over to The Big Island of Hawaii, famed for its active and extinct volcanoes. It was amazing to see the black lava rock covering most of the landscape and then grassland and palm tree forests covering the rest.
Here is the Hula greeting we received at the Kona Airport:
And the family version of the Hula:
After checking into our hotel on Waikoloa and having lunch at The 3 Fat Pigs Gastropub with Chef Ippie of Food Network Star fame (check him out as one of forbes 30 under 30 Food & Wine http://www.forbes.com/pictures/ekeg45jjd/philip-ippy-aiona-24), we headed out to a historical pictograph trail among the lava fields:
The trail is ancient (they say) and the pictographs have recently been translated. There were thousands of them, but how can you tell if they were carved a thousand years ago, or just last week??
Right next to the golf course:
That afternoon we drove to the center of the island to visit the extinct volcano, Mauna Kea. John said we had to be there for sunset...we climbed from sea level to around 3000 feet to get to the Visitor's Center and this famous spot for photos (doesn't remind you of Hawaii, does it?):
Mauna Kea peak from the Visitor's Center. "The 4,200 meter high summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii houses the world's largest observatory for optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy."
We took turns taking photos of each other and the beautiful sunset:
After sunset, all of us tourists and scientists gathered at the Visitors' Center and observed the stars for a while. Being so high and having no light pollution, the sky was alive with stars. Here is a stock photo:
And the one I took of Venus (the planet was like a spotlight, but through the telescope you could see that it was a crescent that night) with my little point-and-shoot:
The next morning we drove inland again to visit more amazing sights. We headed to Waipio Valley, which boasts a black sand beach. Here is the view from above:
But to get there you have to walk down the road that "descends 900ft in a mile and is one of the world's steepest roads. Hike it only, just be prepared for the long hard climb back out." So the hike back up was brutal and we were ready for lunch. Found a cute little cafe run by this local man. As we waited for our table, he took us to the museum he is building to honor his parents, of Japanese and Portugese descent.
We stopped by a grocery store for some snacks, and I had to take this photo for my Singaporean friends:
and that is a full size bottle, US dollars :)
Next stop, Akaka Falls:
A beautiful walk through the garden setting:
Next stop: Mauna Loa, an active volcano. The visitor's center diorama of the island and its peaks
We walked through "Lava Tubes," which are big holes in ancient lava flows - pretty freaky!
Then the overlook of one of the caldaras:
And then the steam vents surrounding the road:
And the active caldara itself during daylight:
The crowds were gathering to see the sight at sunset, so we decided to have a bite to eat and wait till later. There is a military installation there with cabins to rent - we stopped for drinks, cards, and entertainment ( a local ukelele group singing Christmas carols):
Here is what we saw from the Northern Rim after dark:
The ranger told us that there is lava flow out of the side of the mountain that goes into the ocean underground. Someday it will erupt again tremendously.
Everyone was hungry on the drive back to the hotel around 10 PM so we stopped at the famous Ken's House of Pancakes in Hilo. Hilarious waiter and even more hilarious menu that looks like a novel.
The food wasn't really that good, but there was plenty of it.
You can order the Sumo items (ridiculously large) and they hit the Sumo Gong to announce it:
The next day we relaxed a bit at our hotel at Waikoloa. Here is the view from our room:
And then went snorkeling with Manta Rays that night. If you are interested in seeing these lovely 15-foot wingspan creatures and see what we experienced check out the professional video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC2xke6H0xc.
We went back to Oahu for Christmas and the rest of vacation, spent mostly relaxing with each other and celebrating the birth of Our Lord. I got to experience what is a regular occurrence for the locals...driving on the Interstate with a little rain shower and then witnessing the appearance of a rainbow right in front of me. It got brighter and brighter; I didn't see the double bow until I saw the photo later.
Ann Marie and Jimmy decided to join John in the sport of skydiving...Mom took a rain check, but maybe someday!
And finally our family Christmas photo. A blessed time had by all!